Excerpt from the New Book Now Available
From Luby’s to the Legislature
One Woman’s Fight Against Gun Control
By Suzanna Gratia Hupp
Years ago I was invited to Washington, D.C. to speak before a House committee that was hearing a bill regarding the proposed assault weapons ban. I was to be part of the first panel that was to include Sarah Brady of Handgun Control, Inc., and her now-wheelchair-bound, husband, James Brady, had been shot in an attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life.
An hour ahead of time the hearing room was packed and television cameras were everywhere. I called my husband and made him a bet that I would be pulled off that panel. I said that there was no way they were going to let me sit and speak at the same table as Brady with all of the media there, and Sarah Brady always seemed to manage to avoid debating me.
Sure enough, ten minutes ahead of starting time I was informed that I was moved to the third panel. When I entered the room the number of ugly guns that the committee had laid out on tables in front of the dais overwhelmed me. Not a polished wood stock or engraved barrel in the bunch.
For the next few hours I sat and listened to one person after another, both on the panels and on the committee, refer to the guns before them and say, “This gun has no legitimate hunting purpose.” Sarah Brady recounted her husband’s terrible tragedy as the cameras rolled and the committeemen leaned forward with keen interest. She also repeated the mantra: “These guns have no legitimate sporting purpose.”
One man sat with his small daughter on his lap. His young wife had been killed in a workplace shooting by a man with a so-called assault weapon. My heart went out to both him and his young daughter. But in listening to him, I realized that he really seemed to believe that the evil gun had somehow transformed a sane man into committing those horrific murders. How very sad, both for him and for the future self-responsibility of his daughter, that he could not see the illogic in his argument.
As an aside, I happen to know a woman who was also a victim in that very same shooting spree. She told me how she heard the shots and looked out into the hall where she saw the gunman approaching. She pushed a coworker – that little girl’s mother perhaps? – back into her office and locked the door…or so she thought. As she was retrieving a pistol from her own purse, he burst through the door and shot them both. Her coworker died, while she was critically injured with a gunshot to the spine. Although she survived, she will spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
The committee consisted of several congressmen, but I only remember two: a black man from Illinois, who was not actually a member of that committee, but had been invited to sit in, and Charles Schumer, who I am reasonably sure has 666 tattooed somewhere on his body. More than once I watched Schumer pick up one of the uglier guns, dangle it between his thumb and forefinger as if it were a dead rat, and declare, “This gun has no legitimate sporting purpose!”
The panel I was newly placed on consisted of, then executive director of the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, Tanya Metaksa; a medical doctor and father who had a fabulous head for statistics; a second doctor who had recently come out with some erroneous statistics showing you are much more likely to get shot if there is a gun in the house (That is like saying you are much more likely to be killed in a car accident if you ever ride in cars!); and myself.
When it became my turn to testify, three hours had passed and much of the media had gone, which was an intelligent strategic move on the anti-gunners part. As I told the story of how my parents and twenty others were killed by a madman that day in 1991, I noticed that Schumer was not listening. But it went beyond that. This man who had leaned forward and listened intently to Sarah Brady as she spoke, who would furrow his brow in a possibly feigned attempt to appear distressed at her personal pain, was now leaning back in his chair chit-chatting and chuckling with his aide and even rolled his eyes more than once while I recounted the death of my parents.
While committee members in the past have completely disagreed with my stance on guns, I have never had anyone be so entirely rude and disingenuous as Charles Schumer was that day. As I continued my testimony, I found myself growing more and more angered by his lack of respect and blatant disregard for propriety. I struggled to finish and as I did, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end.
I paused for several long seconds and glanced at the other panelists. It occurred to me that no one was saying what really needed to be said. I looked at the other panelists and thought, they have jobs to lose over this, but I don’t. So, it fell to me. When I spoke again, it was to call attention to the six hundred pound gorilla in the room: “I’ve been sitting here, getting more and more fed up with all of this talk about these pieces of machinery having ‘no legitimate sporting purpose, no legitimate hunting purpose.’ People, that is not the point of the Second Amendment! The Second Amendment is not about duck hunting. And, I know I’m not going to make very many friends saying this, but it’s about our rights – all of our rights – and I swept my hand over the audience behind me – to be able to protect ourselves from all of you guys up there.”
Holy cow, did I open a can of worms? The room erupted into applause that had to be interrupted by the chairman. Then, the invited black – African-American, Negro, person-of-color, or whatever we are calling my darker-skinned brethren these days – congressman redressed me with a comment about my lack of respect for the people on the dais.
Point of interest: that congressman was later convicted of several felonies, including having sex with a sixteen year old campaign worker, solicitation of child pornography, obstruction of justice, and a few other ethical gems. President Clinton, during a last minute binge, commuted his sentence.